Mountain Bikers Riding on a road. Aerial view photography

Photo Credit: Orbon Alija (iStock).

According to Washington's Whatcom County Sheriff's Office, an altercation between a hiker and a mountain biker over 'right-of-way' on the trail ended with one of the parties stabbing the other.

On March 6, a group of hikers in Bellingham, Washington were descending down a Stewart Mountain trail when they encountered a mountain biker going uphill. This started an altercation that left the mountain biker seriously injured.

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According to one of the hikers, Dake Traphagen of Bellingham, 69, the mountain biker "attacked" him with his bike and they fell to the ground. At this point, Traphagen stabbed the biker in what he says was self-defense. Eventually, the men separated and the biker left the scene with the group calling 9-1-1.

Detectives caught up with the mountain biker later that afternoon when an ambulance was called to a residence to respond to a male that had suffered multiple stab wounds.

According to the unidentified mountain biker, 66, he was slowly moving uphill on the trail when he encountered the hikers. He requested that they move to the side of the trail so that he could navigate the technical area without unclipping from his bike. One of the hikers grabbed the bike's handlebars, causing the biker to tumble into the hiker. This is when the hiker began to stab the biker in the arm and leg. According to the mountain biker, he then left the scene, fearing for his safety.

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The biker was transported by ambulance to a local hospital due to multiple stab wounds and loss of blood. He was then airlifted to a medical center in Seattle due to the severity of his wounds.

After additional investigation, it was established that there was probable cause to arrest hiker Dake Traphagen for first degree assault and possession of a dangerous weapon. It's worth noting that the knife that was used was a spring blade knife, a style of knife not allowed in Washington. On March 23, Traphagen turned himself in and was booked at the Whatcom County Jail.

According to Washington Trails Association, hikers yield to horses and mountain bikers yield to both hikers and horses. That being said, special circumstances exist, including when trail users are able to communicate with each other to find a better solution. It's also worth noting that hikers often voluntarily yield to other trail users, as their maneuverability and lack of momentum allows them to do so more easily.

There are similar standards in Colorado when it comes to 'right-of-way' and it's important to yield properly for safe traffic flow of the trail. Be respectful and courteous of your fellow trail-goers by following trail rules to help make the trails a safer place for everyone.

Here are the rules as written on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website:

  • ​​Bicyclists, skaters, walkers, and others yield to equestrians.
  • ​​Bicyclists and skaters yield to walkers
  • ​​Bicyclists yield to skaters
  • ​Downhill users yield to uphill users
  • Faster users yield to slower users

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Director of Content and Operations

Spencer McKee is OutThere Colorado's Director of Content and Operations. In his spare time, Spencer loves to hike, rock climb, and trail run. He's on a mission to summit all 58 of Colorado's fourteeners and has already climbed more than half.


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(5) comments


People are loosing their minds! Pull a switch blade on a biker? Geeze


What do you expect from butt heads that come from Washington state


Interesting. I'd always thought that uphill traffic had the right of way. I've always lived by that from my jeep guiding days.


I agree that is how we learned it!


Agreed. It's just common sense. People (and I use that term loosely in the attackers response to the altercation) need to calm down. Another reason I have a concealed carry license. The old adage: "It is better to have it and never need it than to need it and not have it."

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